Lacan and Analysis



Saussure and the Sign: S (the Cut)


The Four Discourses


From Oedipus (as a myth)

To Oedipus (as a dream)



myth table.bmp

Figure 1: Levi-Strauss and the structural Analysis of Myth


And from The Oedipus Complex to

The Four Discourses, beginning with:


The Discourse of the Master (the second one in the figure)



U = University

M = Master

H = Hysteric

A = Analyst




Figure 2: Lacan’s Four Discourses





1.   Lacan’s Motto: “A signifier represents a subject for another signifier”

2.   What is a discourse?  The Subject/Object (inside/outside) relation is at once produced and negated by the mediation of language.  A statement always involves a speaker (subject of enunciation) and something spoken (the enounced: statement, utterance or “the said”).  Here the movement of metonymy (displacement, imaginary, syntagm, desire) drives towards the end of the sentence while the movement of metaphor (condensation, symbolic, abstraction, the Desire of the Other) drives towards the end (the death, removal, eradication) of the subject. 

3.   Introduction to the terms:


The Divided Subject (S with a strikethrough): the site of truth


The Master Signifier (S1): the master


The Signifier of Knowledge (S2): the slave


The Lost object (a): the symptom


The place on the top left is what Lacan calls the “Dominant” (after Roman Jakobson)


As the structure revolves (one place at a time, each letter taking the place of the next one) the discourses begin to produce effects on each other (e.g., in the discourse of the Analyst the Master signifier is exposed as a symptom: the lost object a).






SIGN: represents something for someone

Signifier: represents a subject for another signifier


Is the function of language communication?  If so does the subject exist outside language?


The syllogism (Man as the master of Death):

All men are mortal

Socrates is a man

Socrates is mortal


Freud’s account of the subject (page 205): “not one who knows what he is saying”


Lacan: “The unconscious is the condition of linguistics”

Linguistics: “The unconscious is the condition of language”

Lacan: “Language is the condition of the unconscious”


Symbol and Imaginary

Information (Pure Symbol)

O          O       :        O

O          I        :        O

I            O       :        O

I            I        :        I


Orthography and Syntax (machines)


Semantics (Imaginary)

Plus: ambiguity, emotional content and sense (the French sens means “sense” and “direction”)


The first symbols (“natural” symbols): “good forms”   


The Essential Difference


What the imaginary brings to a subject’s discourse is an inertia.  This inertia mixes up the discourse to the extent that when I want the best for someone, I really want the worst; when I love someone, it really is myself that I love; or when I think that I love myself, it is precisely at this moment when I love another.  This imaginary confusion is precisely what the dialectical exercise of analysis should dissipate. (Lacan 208).


Inertia: the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion.


Numbers (Cardinal before Ordinal)

Cardinal: 7 stones (symbolic—abstract)

Ordinal: 7th son (culture)

“Man is not master of his own house”

“The end of the symbolic process is that non-being comes to be”


The Image and the Symbolic: good forms and abstraction



goodbye 1.jpg


Bell Helicopter AH1Z





ah-1z resized.jpg





Lacan, Jacques, “Sign, Symbol, Imaginary,” On Signs, ed. Marshall Blonsky.



Real Time Raindrops

Koch Snowflake

Signatures of Things